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  • Baptist Beacon

What does it take to revitalize a church?

WINDSOR, ONTARIO – Pastors Bobby Owings and Brian Moss share a fondness for going to places no one else wants to go. For them, it meant being called to lead dying churches—congregations in steep decline, or even on the brink of closing. Joy Allmond refers to them in “3 Non-Negotiables for Revitalizing a Dying Church.” 



When Owings came to Surf City Baptist Church in 2009 (now known as The Gathering), located in a resort town near a military base on the southern coast of North Carolina, each Sunday service had around 50 people in attendance—on a good day. Today, Owings preaches four sermons each Sunday to a total of around 500.


Moss entered the ministry in 1999 after nearly two decades in the information technology industry. His first pastorate— Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Salisbury, Maryland—brought him to a church that boasted around 30 in a weekend service. He’s still at Oak Ridge, along with 1,100 more faces than he started with, and over 1,000 viewers online each week.


Here in Michigan, we have our share of churches with 30-50 people meeting on Sunday morning. We need a fresh wind of renewal to blow across the State. We want to see our churches turn around and grow again, make disciples who make disciples, and take their next step to accelerate Gospel movement.


What does it take to revitalize a church in sharp decline?


Dependent prayer


Above all else, the work of revitalization is a spiritual endeavor and a spiritual battle. Satan and his cohorts are arrayed against us. They do not want your church to prosper. That’s why we need a gospel-saturated, long-term prayer strategy in every church.


James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Trust that God can redeem and renew any church for His glory, pray fervently, and don’t let pride stand in the way.


God-centered worship


God-centered worship is our proper response to the magnificence, splendor, and majesty of God’s character. He is delightfully and eternally worthy of our praise and adoration. Worship goes beyond simply knowing what God is like; it goes beyond “traditional vs. contemporary;” it means that we take delight in the perfection of his attributes.


“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).


Biblical preaching


In biblical exposition, or expository preaching, the structure of the sermon, the substance of the sermon, and the spirit of the sermon, all should come from what we find in the text itself. In that sense, the sermon is not topically driven; it’s not audience-driven; it’s not felt-needs-driven. It is driven by the text of Holy Scripture and becomes a primary source of spiritual nourishment.


“Preach the word!” (2 Timothy 4:2)


Deliberate discipleship


Deliberate discipleship means we have a plan in place. We guide people into a discipleship system and help them move through it on their way to spiritual growth and maturity. Furthermore, we train and equip disciples to become disciple-makers (Matthew 28:19-20). Do you have an intentional discipleship process at your church? What does it look like?


Simple Structure


A declining church does not need the same structure it had when it was running 200 people. A church in renewal must become a focused church.


Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”


Simple structure. Laser-like focus.

A church in our area has 40 or 50 people in the morning service, down from 185, but they host all the same programs. They also have more committees than I have teeth! They are burning people out. They need to simplify.


Frequent celebrations


Throw a party every chance you get! Nothing will change the atmosphere of your church faster than celebrating what God has done for us in Jesus! 


“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2)


In our church, every time we had a reason, we’d throw a party and serve cake! Every time we had a Mission Sunday, or a guest speaker, we’d have a party. Every time we took a special offering, or somebody was saved by God’s amazing grace, we’d throw a party!

Celebration changes the atmosphere of your church. You celebrate more than you complain. You party more than you protest. You lift each other up instead of pushing each other down.


May I ask?


To the six suggestions above, we could add missional engagement, joyful hospitality, meaningful membership, hopeful vision, leadership development, and humble partnership. All are important to the work of church revitalization.


But may I ask… What will it take to revitalize your church? Maybe God is calling you to lean into this possibility to discover his will for your church.


If you’d like to speak to someone at the Baptist State Convention of Michigan about this, please contact Gary Maxey at gary@bscm.org and he will help you get started. We have used Corpus church revitalization training and resources with great profit.


You may not feel called to lead a dying church, or one in steep decline, but God may want to use you anyway! Your church attendance may not soar to 300, 800, or 1,000 people in worship, but you will have the gospel-satisfaction of partnering with God for the good of his church to the praise of his glory.

 

 





ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Garth Leno is the Pastor/Planter Care Specialist with the BSCM. He serves in a similar role with the Canadian National Baptist Convention, and he is the founding pastor of The Gathering Church in Windsor, Ontario, a church he planted with his wife, Patty, and a few of their friends.




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